July 13, 2011
Quick Facts About
In TheBody.com's HIV/AIDS Organization Spotlight series, we focus on some of the true unsung heroes of the HIV community: the organizations that support and provide services for individuals living with, or at risk for, HIV. We profile some of the best in the U.S. and learn how they got started, what challenges they face and what's in store for them in the future.
This week, we turn our sights on Las Vegas, Nev. According to the Nevada State Health Division's HIV/AIDS Surveillance Program, at the end of 2008, an estimated total of 7,940 persons were known to be living with HIV (4,123 of whom had a diagnosis of AIDS), representing a 27 percent increase since 2004. Even as the number of new HIV cases steadily increases every year, Aid for AIDS of Nevada (AFAN) remains the state's leading HIV organization, providing support to those living with HIV and maintaining prevention and education campaigns.
TheBody.com recently interviewed Jennifer Morss, the executive director of AFAN.
Can you tell me a little bit about AFAN's mission?
Founded in 1984, Aid for AIDS of Nevada is the oldest and largest AIDS service organization in the state of Nevada. Nearly 2,000 men, women and children infected with HIV are registered as clients with our agency. AFAN provides direct client service programs, food programs, prevention and education programs, and community outreach. It is the mission of our client-service programs to enhance the physical health and psychosocial wellness of the individuals we serve, while promoting their dignity and improving the quality of their lives.
What services do you currently offer?
Case management, housing assistance, medical transportation assistance, medical nutrition therapy, prevention education, outreach and medication assistance.
What is the biggest challenge that AFAN faces?
Challenging economic times for fundraising and increasing our client base.
Any difficulties doing HIV work specific to being in Nevada?
No. Actually, Nevada has been very supportive of the organization for more than 27 years. We are honored by the continued generosity of our fellow Nevadans.
What is the most rewarding aspect of working at AFAN?
Honestly, we have the most amazing clients. We just love our clients and their families who visit us for services, and attend our annual kids' summer camp and toy drives. We enjoy our family-like environment.
What advice would you give to a potential volunteer who has never been to an HIV organization before and isn't sure how to lend a hand?
Get involved. Do whatever those two words mean to you. Take a tour of a local organization and meet the staff. Offer to help, and we'll jump at the opportunity for more hands on deck. Together we make a difference!
What direction is the organization moving toward? Where do you see AFAN three years from now?
Preparing for health care reform in 2014. We are unwavering in our efforts to ensure there is an AFAN for our clients in 2014. Three years from now, we could look very different. We may operate a federally qualified health center, or we may join forces with other organizations in our community to better leverage funds for client access. We will always be what our clients need us to be; after all, without them, we wouldn't be here.
This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
Warren Tong is the research editor for TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com.
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